Does tayammum (ablution with clean soil) not cause dirtiness? However, if the aim is to be clean, what is the reason of taking ablution again with soil?

The Details of the Question
Does tayammum (ablution with clean soil) not cause dirtiness? However, if the aim is to be clean, what is the reason of taking ablution again with soil?
The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

What is essential in prayers is obedience; that’s to say, doing as ordered without asking the reason. Just as we cannot ask why the fard of dhuhr prayer is four while the fard of maghrib prayer is two, so cannot we ask how tayammum can substitute for wudu (ablution) and ghusl (full ablution).

Islam is the one which attaches the most importance to cleanliness amongst all humane systems and religious regulations. All prayers and all kinds of religious life are based on cleanliness. Books of hadith and Islamic jurisprudence begin with matters about cleanliness. Cleanliness is considered to be the half of Islam. This matter covers a wide range from personal hygiene to the cleanliness of the environment.

Cleanliness, both physical and spiritual, is a matter which a Muslim should definitely be careful about. The Prophet tried to place the fact that there cannot be a religious life and piety without cleanliness in people’s consciousnesses with expressions such as “Cleanliness is the half of the faith” and “Cleanliness is the key to prayers.”

Naturally, this has increased the importance of cleanliness for Muslims by a reasonable degree. As a matter of fact, all good deeds, both worldly and unworldly, are dependant on the existence of cleanliness to be accepted and approved. It is stated in hadith that “Without cleanliness, a prayer is not accepted.”

Here cleanliness is an indispensable condition. It is impossible to set a limit such as physical cleanliness and spiritual cleanliness. As a matter of fact, Islam does not make discrimination between body and soul, deeming one of them superior to the other. Contrarily, Islam wants them both to be disciplined and matured and puts forward cleanliness as the condition for the disciplining of both. One’s soul is dirtied by shirq (attributing partners to Allah), arrogance, self-conceit, lying, backbiting, jealousy, aggressiveness, gossiping, occupying oneself with unnecessary things, looking at what is forbidden, sinfulness, heedlessness, badmouthing, desperation, boastfulness, extravagancy, stinginess and mercilessness… Just as spiritual dirtiness such as those are strictly forbidden, so is some physical dirtiness which hinder praying determined and ordered to be stayed away from.

All books about morality include explanations about the kinds of spiritual dirtiness and ways of cleaning them. (for an example, see: Ihya, volumes 3 and 4)

Some Quranic verses state that many religious orders were made in order to establish “cleanliness”. For instance, following the verse which orders we become clean by means of ghusl, ablution or tayammum (in order to substitute for both of them when necessary), it is stated: “God does not wish to place you in a difficulty, but to make you clean, and to complete his favor to you.” (al-Ma’idah, 6) and in another verse it is stated: “Of their goods, take alms, that so you might purify and sanctify them” (al-Tawbah, 103). The Prophet’s expression “There is a zakat (purifier) for everything; and the zakat of body is fasting” indicates that fasting was made obligatory for purifying something else. As known, zakat literally means both increase and cleaning; and it is used with both meanings in Islamic law.

Tayammum with clean soil substitutes for ghusl when there is no water or it is impossible to be used.
Tayammum is, in order to clean any large or small dirtiness, striking the clean soil lightly with the palms of both hands and passing the palms over the face one time and then striking the clean soil again with one’s palms and rubbing the right and left arms alternately from the fingertips to the elbows. Tayammum which is done to clean oneself from impurity of body substitutes for both ghusl and ablution. Tayammum, which is a symbolic and spiritual way of cleaning, gives one the feeling of cleanliness spiritually and psychologically, though it does not provide a physical cleanliness, and enables one to feel ready for worshipping Allah.

Allah the Supreme Being meant not to cause people hardship but to complete His favors to them by making ablution, ghusl or tayammum obligatory. These are nothing that exceeds the capacity of people’s power. There is no any responsibility in religion which human beings cannot do. And special exceptions (simplicities) are provided in exceptional situations. Ablution and ghusl are means of cleaning which protects body from germs and a kind of spiritual cleaning which brings one closer to Allah and enable him to feel ready to worship Him. Tayammum is a spiritual cleaning as well.

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